Last Fall the Toronto Area Board of Trade floated the idea of uploading all transit in the GTAH to the province under the umbrella of a new agency—Superlinx. The benefits of such a plan would include region-wide prioritization of projects based on evidence-a concept notably absent in the Hamilton LRT debate. Important as well would be the integration of local transit routing into a seamless regional system so that commuters who can’t be served by GO rail can still get to their destinations with a minimum of transfers and long waits. The operational problems with the fare integration system PRESTO (which is anything but), would finally be resolved with the elimination of local jurisdictions. There are some flawed assumptions in the Board’s proposal—the main one being that “safeguards” can be built into the Superlinx governance structure to eliminate political interference. That was supposed to be the case with Metrolinx which was launched with great fanfare as an arms-length, evidence-based coordinator of regional transit. But in recent years especially, Metrolinx had fallen prey to political interference from the province and began to act against its own expertise with projects like the one-stop Scarborough subway, GO stations in Minister’s back yards, and, in our opinion LRT in Hamilton, where the transit metrics hardly support BRT, and the economic uplift is mostly aspirational. Still a regional system can be implemented as we see in New York, where the Metropolitan Transit Authority system extends as far north as Poughkeepsie, 81 miles from Grand Central Station and where some 76 express bus routes cover the entire region where subway and MTA rail are not available. Superlinx deserves a closer look by this province.
Police Services Board overhaul needed
The Hamilton Police Services Board is set to get a new face with the voluntary retirement of Clr. Terry Whitehead, and the certain replacement of a number of provincial appointees to the body. But these changes do nothing to address what appeared to the a flawed governance model.The latest revelation that a member of the Hamilton Police Services Board has been suspended pending the investigation of undisclosed alleged wrongdoing, marks at least the fourth time a member of this body has been suspended. The folks at the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, who have ultimate oversight of these issues, must groan when they see a Hamilton phone number on their call display. With apologies to innocent members, it is time for council and the province to put in place a proper system of public accountability. While board members fight amongst themselves they lose sight of their responsibility to provide an appropriate level of civilian oversight of an organization that spends $160 Million a year. Successive boards have allowed the police service to pile up huge cash reserves through budgets that they rubber stamp out of an excessive and irrational fear of sticking their noses into “operational matters”.
Too often members of the PSB have interpreted their role as enablers of the agenda of the chief of the day—acting as a focus group– rather than as vigilant representatives of the public. That perception is reinforced when board members walk around wearing blazers sporting the Police coat of arms—a ridiculous practice that does nothing to instil a sense of appropriate governance and should be discontinued. There should be no special badges, crests or ID cards. If the Police Services Board can’t perform their duty as representatives of the public they should step aside or be replaced. Members of Hamilton City Council have a role in paying more attention to police services budgets when presented; and not assume that everything is fine because colleagues on the PSB have done their due diligence.